Sterne Blog

Submitted by: Mike Jensen, IT Director

“With great power comes great responsibility”

Sterne School has a 1:1 iPad program to support students’ access to curriculum, digital literacy skills, and creative expression. Research shows that iPads also help students with executive functioning- including planning, time management, and remembering assignments and homework. The iPad is just one of the many tools we use to help students achieve their educational goals at Sterne. For more information on our technology program and tools, go to our website.

Two primary concerns related to our use of technology, and specifically iPads, are content and screen time. To help address content, Sterne School runs a Mobile Device Management (MDM) software system on all our Sterne owned iPads. This built-in software allows Sterne to regulate and restrict access to social media, games, and the app store. We also control the content that can be accessed by all iPads on campus through the use of internet firewalls, and an OpenDNS to make sure material is appropriate for school.

To help promote connections and engagements beyond the screen and instill a balanced sense of technology and non-technology time in the school environment, the Middle School requires students to take recess, snack, and lunch breaks without iPads.  Furthermore, although used as a tool in the classroom, teachers will often ask students to check their iPads into the “iPad hotel” (phones, too) or do a “faceplant” which means their iPads are to be flipped over screen-side down so as not to interfere with the activity or particular lesson for that period.  These screen time protocols and techniques help instill responsible and respectful use of technology.

We recognize that creating a culture of respect and balance around technology at home can be daunting -- both in the what (regulations, conditions) and in the how (tools, settings). Before iPads it was phones, game systems, computers, television,’s always something, right?

There is good news, however! For students who are using a Sterne owned iPad, our MDM (and associated restrictions) works at home as well as school.  There are also a number of tech tools parents can access to help their student(s) learn how to be responsible digital natives (content and screen time).  Below are some tools, tips, and recommendations:

If you have any questions, please contact Michael Jensen, IT Director at Sterne School.



Submitted by: Ed McManis, Head of School
Photo Credit: ESPN

If you’re a sports fan, you may remember the 2008 Olympic 400 relay races. The Americans were favorites, both the men and the women, yet they were eliminated. Both teams dropped the baton. All the speed in the world couldn’t make up for the “transition.”

With that thought in mind, here are some tips for those key transitions, whether middle school to high school, high school to college, any school to another school.

Many schools claim the ability to serve students with learning differences. The school  may have hosted a workshop, an in-service, or even employed a part time counselor to work with certain students. Does this mean they can meet the needs of students with LDs?

Here are a few key things to look for.


* Is their “LD” program based on best practices?

* Is a “differentiated” pedagogy integrated into the regular curriculum?

* Are there specifically designated trained LD teachers?

* To what degree will the teachers/classes accommodate the student?

* To what extent will they work with other professionals?

* What is their track record with LD students?

Specific LD knowledge:

* Do they know what Orton Gillingham is?

* Do they know what you mean when you say “phonological processing” or orthographic processing” or “executive functioning” outside of the overly general “being organized”?

* Do they know what an IEP is, a 504, or Lease Restrictive Environment?

* Do they know their Greek? (dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia?)


* Do they have Counseling Support services trained specifically in LD?

* Do they understand twice exceptional; dual diagnoses?

* Is it a social environment that is understanding and accepting of learning differences

* Will they allow participation in sports and clubs? Or will your child be excluded because of grades? Do you have a support person to advocate for you?

* Do you feel at home?

In the giant relay race of school, sometimes it’s a marathon. Make sure you have the right team to help you pass the baton and make a smooth transition. 

Submitted by: Jeff Burnaugh, Director of Learning

We come from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills that inform our worldview. What one person experiences in a situation can be completely different from another. We are affected by personal history, culture, and personality. This is why creating a team around students at Sterne is so important.

Our goal at Sterne is to create a team - student, parent, and teacher: This allows us to build a shared vision based on a collective assessment of the student. Students come into our classes with their unique lens; and they also bring their unique learning style.  Teachers see different sides of students because of the diversity of class content, social dynamics, teaching styles, and relationships. Parents see different sides based on the dynamics at home and the family's history. Together, we build a team to support each student to reach their potential.

In an effort to facilitate a good framework for an effective working relationship, here are three important guidelines:

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood (Covey,1989)

Empathy, the ability to listen and respect different perspectives/opinions is important in creating a common ground to work from. Teachers must be sure to model empathy for their students. Additionally, teachers need to understand dynamics at home to better bridge the two spaces, home and school, in which students spend the majority of their time. Parents can help by understanding what the teacher is observing in the classroom, and supporting the teacher in their efforts to create a positive and safe learning environment.

Be Solution and Process Oriented

After we assess common understanding as a baseline, we need to work together toward solutions. If something doesn’t work then we need to reassess and try again. Learning and growing are processes not singular events. Focusing on solutions can be a very powerful approach. If a student is struggling at home with an assignment, it is important that we devise a plan. Is the work too frustrating? Is the student not challenged enough? There are numerous solutions around these two questions alone. If the initial plan proves ineffective, then we try another.

Create a Common Goal

It is important that the student, teacher, and parent are all working toward a common goal. This goal can be social, developmental, or academic. If united, we can focus our energy and make sure our processes are aligned. As the student progresses, we re can re-evaluate and create another benchmark. It is important to meet the student where they are as opposed to where we would like them to be.

An effective team is built around these principles to help better serve the student. Together, from a place of understanding, and collective experiences and perspectives, we can work toward a common vision of what we define as success for the student.


Submitted by: Melissa Myers, Associate Head of School

Anxiety 101

The two most commonly-asked questions we get from prospective Sterne families are: 1) How does Sterne School approach and support homework?, and 2) What do you do to help with anxiety? (See the correlation there?) Since Ed already addressed homework in last weeks’ post, we’ll take a look at why children and teens often grapple with anxiety, what this looks like at school, and what Sterne does about it.

Why are children more stressed?

Over the past 50 years, experts have identified a marked increase in the number of children being treated for anxiety. This is often attributed to the cultural expectation that students receive stellar grades in high school, attend competitive colleges, and earn six-figure salaries in the workplace. (And forgetaboutit in the Bay Area, where rent is sky-high and the average price of housing is now at $1 million.)  Early and constant exposure to social media and all its trappings--body-shaming, cyber bullying, and rampant narcissism--provide a constant barrage of negative messaging that can do great damage to the fragile teenage psyche. No adult envies the position that today’s children are in.

How does this manifest in school?

Remember when your child was little and they would run to you, crying, and say, “I’m sad”? If only your teenager were as forthcoming!; Alas, they are not, so we sometimes need to get out our stress detectors and look for these common signs:

●      Frequent stomach aches or headaches

●      Avoidance of difficult tasks; avoidance of parents/teachers

●      Sleeplessness; coming to school tired, falling asleep in class

●      Irritability or anger

●      Drug or alcohol use and abuse

●      Resisting or refusal to attend school

Our hope is that they are a distant memory for your family; however, if anxiety doesn’t abate quickly, we’re on the lookout.

How does Sterne support students with anxiety?

We start by making faculty aware of the symptoms.  And then we talk about every student at faculty meetings, in the hallways, in the break room, on the weekends. We are always thinking of your sons and daughters, and wondering why they put their hood up the other day in class, or why they seemed edgy.  We might call them if they don’t come to school for a few days. And we’ll contact you, too, so we can partner to help these guys recognize their stress before it grabs hold of them.

We also support our kids through daily Mindfulness in every class (2 minutes at the start of class, 1 minute at the end); our counselors work with teachers and students to learn specific stress-reduction techniques. And we have learned to recognize anxiety trends throughout the school year: in October, the Honeymoon Period ends, and we start to see some old behaviors bubble up; stress always rises around the holidays and then levels out before the Ides of March; by May and early June, kids are anxious about the change of routine that the summertime brings. 

You can partner with us to help manage your child’s stress by providing routine and structure at home--get them signed up for clubs and sports after school, keep them active on the weekend with volunteer projects, organized outings and playdates, and plenty of physical activity.

Additional Resources:

Books for children:

Hey Warrior by Karen Young

Starving the Anxiety Gremlin by Kate Collins-Donnelly

What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dan Hubener

Books for teens:

Anxiety Sucks: A Teen Survival Guide by Natasha Daniels

Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens by Mary Karapetian Alvord PhD and Anne McGrath MA

Stuff That Sucks: A Teen's Guide to Accepting What You Can't Change and Committing to What You Can by Ben Sedley

Books for parents:

Helping Your Anxious Teen by Sheila Achar Josephs PhD

Why Smart Kids Worry: What Parents Can Do to Help by Allison Edwards

The Conscious Parent's Guide to Childhood Anxiety: A Mindful Approach for Helping Your Child Become Calm, Resilient, and Secure by Sherianna Boyle

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